What does your mobile phone provide for you on a daily basis? For many of us the answer is on-the-go Emails, online shopping or the ability to message loved ones, but around the world a mobile phone is much more. Mobiles are opening doors to educational possibilities that have been impossible up until now, and that is a very big deal.
Smartphone adoption has exploded worldwide, and most new users are picking up Androids, or the AndroidOne, a more affordable option. The decision to opt for a smartphone instead of a feature phone is turning out to have life-changing advantages.
Already, we know that feature phones and text messaging services have provided services to people in rural areas – not to mention everyone else – that were simply unthinkable a decade ago. One example is Text To Change (TTC Mobile), which collects personal opinions of communities in emerging markets through texting services, thereby giving a voice to a wider population. Feature phones have also saved lives with SMS alerts in crisis situations. There is a long list of services that have been created for making best use of feature phones.
But text messaging is not without its limits. Smartphones are a huge leap forward, bringing users the Internet and other useful tools that are not found in the feature phones. You may have seen the old Radio Shack ad which advertises pricey and bulky devices, all of which can now be found on our smartphones. But beyond the magic of downsizing, smartphones bring connectivity, which is the key to unlocking education.
Smartphone adopters will benefit as connectivity becomes a tool for learning and discovery. In the more developed smartphone markets educational apps are already a multibillion dollar industry. There is reason to believe the same trend will happen in emerging markets. First the hurdles of digital literacy must be addressed. But once those barriers are overcome, an education can be accomplished anywhere. Moreover, education via smartphones will reach people who have hitherto been excluded from formal educational systems, such as children with disabilities.
Android developers, educators, companies, and NGOs alike are joining the movement, realizing that what’s needed next is content. Do you know of an app that brings educational tools to wider populations? We would love to hear about it! It’s time to address the app gap!